Tools and Apps for Organizing and Supporting Differentiated Instruction
What is differentiated instruction?
Knowing our Students
- Google forms are an outstanding way to collect data on students. By beginning the school year with a survey for the parents and students, we can get to know our students while building a collaborative learning environment.
- Passion blog posts, first on paper, then on Kidblog, gives us the opportunity to know our students as individuals and learners. By conferring throughout the writing process, we begin to build crucial relationships built on trust and respect.
- Using Google tools, such as Google Docs and Slides, we can gather data on our students' strengths, challenges, interests, and perceptions. Learners' receive feedback from you as well as from their peers. Feedback is a powerful tool in knowing and supporting our students; in From Numbers to Meaningful Feedback and Feedback Taking It to Heart, I share some of my thoughts on the power it can have.
Organizing and Managing
- Equity cards, or equity sticks, is a strategy for including every student in a class discussion. The cards provide a place for students to create and decorate a card that represents them while the back is an opportunity for the teacher to record pertinent facts to keep in mind while instructing students. We also use an app called Stick Pick. (How to use Stick Pick)
- Time management and organization can be challenging. Using the Confer app, you can quickly take notes on a student’s strengths or needs. Also, using “Quick Text,” you can create a note and apply it to a group of students. Once a note or comment is created, it is saved, and can easily be applied to other students at a different time. My students also set personal goals and we chart their progress with Confer. Be aware that this app will be a device specific application. The cloud version is no longer supported.
- The creator of Confer is releasing a new app that includes all the features of Confer with the capability of being able to provide snapshots of students' work within the app. This app is called Snapfolio.
- Data: Hero or Villain?
- In Where Do We Go From Here: Tools for Providing Timely, Personalized Feedback, I expound upon some of the practices that we have found useful in the classroom.
- Reading is an area that affects all content-area learning. Students require the right level of support or challenge based on their individual reading need. For students who struggle with reading, English language proficiency, or have a diagnosis such as dyslexia, audio books may be a good fit for them. Audio books can be downloaded or streamed through Overdrive, which many school and public libraries provide, Audible, or YouTube. MyOn provides teacher and students with endless opportunities to differentiate reading and gather data.
- There are also several Google Extensions that help meet the reading needs of our learners. The ones that we use most successfully are Mercury Reader, Speak It, and Open Dyslexic. Mercury Reader cleans up a website and removes distractions. Speak It read text on a website. Open Dyslexic changes the font on a webpage into Dyslexie font that helps those with dyslexia better focus and read text.
- Students want choice and they want to build their own knowledge. TES Teach's Blendspace provides a place to curate information for your students whether it's a collection of reading choices or mentor texts.
- Here are a couple of pieces that I've written on engaging students in reading: Igniting a Love of Reading, Whose Voice is Heard?, Finding the Love of Reading Faster than a Speeding Bullet.
- With Voice Typing in Google Drive, students who face the challenge of typing or physically writing are able to compose pieces of writing by removing barriers.
- With Kidblog, students are able to have an authentic audience, both locally and globally, while having the ability to foster creativity with the writing genre and style.
- Students need to have the ability to choose how to best demonstrate their learning.
- Learners who are artistically inclined or who love graphic novels, may enjoy creating their own comics. My students enjoy the app, ComicBook!, or the desktop tools, Storyboard That, ComicLife or ToonDoo.
- Many learners thrive when being given the opportunity to build, make, or create. Legos, puppet shows, skits, or readers' theater are opportunities for these students.
- Some students are drawn towards having a digital version of a book. MyStorybook provides them the opportunity to create digital books that can be shared digitally or downloaded as a PDF for printing.
- Powtoon is a web tool that provides the opportunity for learners to create their own animated videos or presentations.
- We have students who love gaming. Using tools such as Minecraft, students can create interactive worlds to demonstrate their learning. When coupled with a screen-casting tool like Screencastify or Screencast-O-Matic, they can capture their story and turn it into a video.
- Stop-motion animation and green screen appeal to many of our students. StikBot provides all the tools and a simple app to guide students in creating a fun, project.